Preview of the first three Flyers matchups

Flyers soon to be Captain Claude Giroux is ready to start the season.It’s over Philadelphia. After the longest 113 days any Flyers fan can remember, the NHL is finally off of life support and back in stable condition. While the NHL has yet to release a full schedule, many expect that to be announced this weekend after the players ratify the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The first three games for the Flyers will bring an exciting start to an abbreviated season. The Penguins, Sabres and Devils will be the Flyers first three opponents. The Flyers also open the season with back to back nationally televised games on NBC in less than 24 hours against the Pens and Sabres according to Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Let’s break down these three games.

The Flyers will open the season on January 19 at 3 p.m., on home ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Is there really a better way to open the season? Every Flyers fan remembers that emotional series last postseason. A series dominated by plenty of goal scoring, a rivalry that jumped to a whole new level of crazy and some guy named Claude Giroux. The fact that this will be the first meeting between the two teams since that series will be a treat for the hockey world.

The game will be televised nationally on NBC where the entire nation can witness the great hockey we watched with glee last April. Many questions surround this matchup. Will the Flyers attempt any retaliation for the hits that James Neal had against Giroux and Sean Couturier? How will Ilya Bryzgalov open his second season in Philadelphia? Will the Flyers defense struggle as much as fans believe it will? We shall see.

The Flyers then travel to Buffalo the very next day to face the Sabres on NBC at 12:30 PM according to WGRZ TV in Buffalo. The Sabres finished last season with a 39-32-11 record for 89 points and narrowly missed a playoff spot behind the Ottawa Senators. The Flyers swept the season series against Buffalo last season, winning all four games while outscoring the Sabres 17-9. Claude Giroux had 11 points in those four games, with his only goal coming in the overtime victory in Buffalo on 12/7/11. This game will be interesting to watch, mainly because it will be fascinating to see how the Flyers respond to the season opener against Pittsburgh. Also, we will see how well the Flyers conditioning holds up when playing their second game in less than 24 hours. Two games in that span after only a week of training camp and no preseason games will be something to keep an eye on. It’s an interesting matchup for a number of reasons and it should be a very good test for the Flyers coming off an emotional opener in Philadelphia.

The last of the first three games to start off 2013 is against the New Jersey Devils. A team that flat out dominated the Flyers in Eastern Conference semi-finals last postseason and had an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Los Angeles Kings. In that series, the Flyers only win came in a game 1 overtime goal from Danny Briere. From game 2 on, the Devils asserted their dominance. A “defense first” game plan suffocated the Flyers dump and chase methods and the series turned into one that was tough to watch for Flyer fans.

This season however, the Devils will have a slightly different look. The everlasting Martin Brodeur will still be between the pipes, but the loss of captain Zach Parise to the Minnesota Wild could be very tough to replace in terms of point production and leadership. The Flyers posted a record of 3-2-1 in the regular season last year against the Devils and played very well in those three wins. The two losses were ones that the team would really like to forget, including a 6-4 loss at home on 2/4/12. The Flyers, like any team that is eliminated, will be seeking revenge for the embarrassing end to their season. The two games leading up to this matchup will put the Flyers into a certain state of mind going into the game. A 2-0 start could really start the Flyers off in the right direction. However, a rough start could make this game a must win for the Flyers, three games into a 48 game season.

One thing is sure though. Flyers hockey is back folks and let’s hope we never have to go through what we went through for those 113 painful days ever again. Seven more days Philly. Seven more days.

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Matt Elwell

Matthew Elwell was born and raised in South Jersey and is a life long Philadelphia sports fan. While he enjoys all sports, hockey and the Flyers are his biggest passion. He currently attends Rowan University and will graduate in May of 2013 with a degree in Journalism. Follow Matt on Twitter via @TheOrangeNBlack.